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Our new regular contributor, Steve Higgs (September Quest’s £250 prize winner), joins our team this month, offering more sound advice from the resettlement frontline. This time, why a lack of direct experience is not necessarily a barrier to securing a new job – thanks to employer demand for the transferable skills you already possess
You may think that a lack of relevant, industry-specific experience will stop you from getting a job, but that’s not necessarily the case. Many employers are looking for potential. It is vital, therefore, that you sell your potential by demonstrating the transferable skills that you have developed already.
Employers are usually looking for abilities and qualities that they recognise to be present in their most effective employees. These so-called ‘soft skills’ – such as being able to communicate effectively in a variety of situations, showing initiative, creativity and integrity, and having a good work attitude – are valuable across all industries.
The good news is that you already have transferable skills. You have developed such skills and abilities throughout your life, and most certainly in your military career. It is important that you can identify and give examples of the transferable skills that you have developed – this will go a long way to persuading prospective employers that you are right for the job.
Remember that employers will be looking at your potential. There is always an element of risk when it comes to employing new people, so think carefully about the type of skills you wish to emphasise and pick examples you can demonstrate to minimise the perceived risk of employing you.
Here are some ideas …
In many jobs, you will be expected to work as part of a team. Demonstrating your ability to work with others will help to reassure employers that you will ‘fit in’ and offer a valuable contribution.
Can you give examples of how, as part of a group, you worked on decision making and problem solving? Think about how you overcame issues and mention your successes. Leading a sports team works as an example, especially if your team won.
Now here’s a big one for all Service leavers. There are many skills you need to be an effective leader, so think about examples of when you have helped to motivate, take responsibility for and lead others effectively to accomplish objectives and goals. You can delegate effectively – you need to put this across.
Personal motivation, organisation and time management
As well as being able to work effectively in a group situation, you are likely to be required to work alone, and take responsibility for your own time and work. Think about how you use time-management skills on a daily basis and how you will demonstrate in interview how you have been proactive rather than reactive to situations and workloads.
Many job roles will require an element of writing skills – producing reports, press releases, marketing materials, letters or emails, and you may have to write for the web, for customers, shareholders and colleagues. The biggest sin I see is spelling mistakes on a CV or introductory letter. You must know the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’.
If you know this is a weak area for you, then above everything else you must relearn English. Go and gain an appropriate qualification. Your education centre is poised to give you the advice you need.
Connect with Steve at
Can you communicate information and ideas clearly and effectively in a variety of situations? Few Service personnel avoid speaking in front of a group. Grab this skill and develop it!
Think about your verbal communication skills and how you address others, both face to face and in group situations. Give examples of presentations or talks that you have given. Can you be assertive? Are you polite? Can you communicate with tact and diplomacy when necessary? Can you speak in such a way as to enthuse or inspire others?
You may not be applying for a job or pursuing a career in mathematics or statistics, but a basic understanding of numeracy will be necessary. If you know you are weak in this area, tackle it now.
Very few Service personnel get exposed to profit and loss (P&L) or cash flow sheets, but these are daily basics in every firm. If you want a management role you’ll need to study this subject.
Personal development is an attractive quality to employers. By demonstrating that you are keen to learn and progress, you are likely to be seen as enthusiastic and willing to take on new challenges.
Understand what skills you do not have, or where you are weak, and do something about it. Employers will be impressed by a long list of qualifications, however the qualifications need to be appropriate to the job or career you are applying for: quad bike instructor will not get you a job in a bank! Look back at the quarterly prize winners in this magazine and the number of qualifications they have amassed. Check them out at www.questonline.co.uk
Many jobs will require that you use word-processing, spreadsheet and web-based software on a daily basis. However, think beyond these basic IT skills. Are you confident using a computer? Can you learn how to use new software and new technology quickly? Can you troubleshoot basic computer problems, and do you understand the importance of data security and privacy? A plethora of courses are available to you right now. Go and learn something new. Doing so will open a door to the next learning opportunity
If you are worried that you are lacking in the skills that will land you your next job – good. You cannot afford to be complacent. It’s not all bad news though: you have time to tackle this, but do not wait until you are being asked what resettlement course you want and then start dealing with your numeracy and literacy concerns. You have transferable skills, lots of them in fact. Possibly even enough to get you that all-important first civilian job, so focus on identifying your strengths and eliminating your weaknesses.
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